Having recently learned about the ingenuity of Mark Masters per his May 2004 release with Lee Konitz, One Day With Lee , I eagerly anticipated checking out Masters' 2003 album The Clifford Brown Project.
In order to examine the body of music associated with the later trumpeter, Masters devised a unique methodology to highlight Clifford Brown's solos as performed by the Ensemble, which consists of eleven musicians. Tim Hagans is given the opportunity to emulate Clifford Brown, while a quartet of trumpeters (Kye Palmer, Ron King, Marc Lewis, Ron Stout) perform harmonizations of Brownie's solos on "Sandu" and "Bones for Jones," and trade fours on "Swingin'." The arrangements are largely by Mark Masters, with the exception of "Joy Spring" and "Bones for Jones," which were provided by tenor saxophonist Jack Montrose. These two compositions were orchestrated by Montrose, as he did in 1954 on the original Pacific Jazz Clifford Brown Ensemble featuring Zoot Sims album on which Montrose also appeared. The charts for "I Remember Clifford" were rendered by the composer, Benny Golson. All of the solo transcriptions were accomplished through the hard work of Eric Lewis.
Musically, the album is a pleasure to hear. Hagans and especially Gary Smulyan grab the early solo opportunities with great gusto with the baritone saxophonist barrelling through the tunes like Pepper Adams and the ballads like Gerry Mulligan. Tim Hagans gives a clear and concise reading on the trumpet melody lines in the manner of Brown. Trombonist Dave Woodley gets several well turned solo spots and Montrose is given some good solo time on "Sweet Clifford," "Bones for Jones" and the lovely ballad "LaRue." Pianist Cecilia Coleman, as she does on the newer Lee Konitz album, provides the framework for the Ensemble and solos effectively while Putter Smith and Joe LaBarbera anchor the rhythm section well. The trumpet choir, in their appearances on the three Brown solos, add data for those Clifford Brown archive researchers to further study.
Mark Masters has progressed from the works of Jimmy Knepper to Clifford Brown to Lee Konitz with ambitious results, and I look forward to his next venture.
Joy Spring, Sweet Clifford, Minor Mood, LaRue, Sandu, Daahoud, I Remember Clifford, Bones for Jones, Swingin', Joy Spring.
Mark Masters, arranger; Tim Hagains,trumpet; Gary Smulyan, baritone sax; Jack Montrose, tenor sax; Dave Woodley, trombone; Kye Palmer, Ron King, Marc Lewis, Ron Stout, Ron Stout, trumpet choir; Cecilia Coleman,piano; Putter Smith,bass; Joe LaBarbera, drums.